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19.10.15

Council leaders criticise centrally imposed apprenticeship targets

Local authority leaders are being encouraged to raise their concerns with Parliament on plans to set apprenticeship targets for councils and other public bodies. 

A paper presented to the Local Government Association’s (LGA’s) People and Places Board today (19 October) notes that the plans should be opposed, as current and further cuts to budgets will “undoubtedly impact on the local government workforce”, so “a legal obligation to hire apprentices would be unhelpful”. 

Following the second reading of the Enterprise Bill on 12 October, which included a clause enabling the secretary of state to set apprenticeship targets, the LGA is calling for councils to be excluded from the apprenticeship levy applicable to large employers “as it is an additional cost at a time of significant financial constraint”. 

Members at today’s meeting are encouraged to raise with parliamentarians “our concerns about the target and levy applying to councils, and of the positive role councils can play notwithstanding targets”. 

Tomorrow, an LGA roundtable with the DCLG will explore ways local government can contribute “meaningfully” to increasing apprenticeships, rather than “centrally imposed targets”. 

The latest plans come as the government has pledged to deliver three million apprenticeships over the course of this Parliament, geared to employers’ skills requirements. This is a significant increase of 35% from the last Parliament. 

However, the education inspectorate, Ofsted, has warned that an increase in the number of apprenticeships has diluted their quality. 

Ahead of report on the subject, due later this week, an Ofsted spokeswoman told FE Week: “The growth in the number of apprenticeships over the last eight years has diluted their quality, with many low-skilled jobs being classed as apprenticeships and used to accredit the established skills of people who have been in a job for some time.

“These low-level apprenticeships are particularly common in service sectors, like retail and care, and do not provide sufficient training that stretches the apprentices and improves their capabilities.”

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